Options for Japanese Gulch park amenities are narrowing

MUKILTEO — Basketball courts? Probably not. A place to picnic? Probably yes. And an area for off-leash dogs? Still undecided.

A group working on a plan for the new park at Japanese Gulch asked the public for comment on what amenities it would like to see. Although the committee’s work is still under way, some of the options appear to have narrowed.

Kirstin Kohorst, one of the committee members, said the group is trying to let the public know that most of the land will remain as it is now, woods with wildlife and a variety of trails.

That’s because 98 acres of the property was bought with money to preserve it as a natural area. “Those 98 acres are untouched,” she said. “We’ll be improving some trails, closing some and putting in trail markers.”

Some changes are being planned on a slice of the 144-acre park near the 76th Street trailhead, mostly likely for restrooms, and an area near the community garden for picnicking.

One of goals is to clear out invasive plants that have invaded the area, such as Scotch broom and blackberries. “For its overall health, we can’t leave it in its current state,” said Jennifer Berner, the city’s recreation and cultural services director. “Otherwise you’re jeopardizing the rest of the forest of Japanese Gulch.”

The Mukilteo Community Garden will probably be expanded. Natural grasses could be planted to create an open meadow where people could picnic, she said.

Those who responded to an online park survey were in favor of providing areas for mountain biking and for BMX jumping, she said. These are activities that have been going on in the gulch, which was privately owned but was treated as an informal park until the purchase of 98 acres last year.

There will probably be improvements to the parking area near the trailhead and restrooms could be located near there as well.

Kohorst said one of the most debated issues the committee has wrested with is whether to allow unleashed dogs in the park. In the rest of the city’s parks, dogs must be leashed. There is an off-leash dog park near the bottom of the gulch property. The debate is whether to allow dogs off leash on the park’s trails, as often happens now.

“There are runners and the dogs come chasing them,” Kohorst said. “But my dog loves to be off leash.”

The public didn’t support a suggestion to install a basketball court in the park, she said.

Baker Landscape Architects of Seattle will continue working on the park’s plan through the summer and fall and city staff will be writing descriptions of its design, Berner said. The plan is expected to be presented to the city’s Parks and Arts Commission in November and to the City Council in December.

Some changes, such as trail signs, could get under way in 2016 with the help of volunteers, Berner said. Others, like public restrooms, will probably need money from grants to accomplish, she said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

The group working on the master plan for the park at Japanese Gulch has two upcoming meetings. They are from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. July 8 at Mukilteo City Hall, 11930 Cyrus Way and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. July 15 at the Rosehill Community Center, 304 Lincoln Ave.

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